TUC Women’s Conference 2021

ASLEF at TUC Women’s Conference 2021

TUC Women’s Conference took place virtually March 3 – 5. ASLEF sent a delegation of four members made up of Debbie Reay (WRC Chair), Liz Cocks (WRC Secretary), Elizabeth Surrey (elected lay member) and Jenny Wray (Elected lay member and WRC representative District 4)

The delegation took part in the conference debates and attended fringes across the conference, with ASLEF hosting a fringe event on Thursday 4th March. Debbie Reay was successfully re-elected to the TUC Women’s Committee for another year and both of ASLEF’s motions were passed.

You can see an overview of the conference and watch the delegation speeches below.

  • Wednesday 3rd March
    Conference was opened by TUC Women’s Committee Chair Sue Fearne, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady addressed conference with a speech noting the recent elections of Kamala Harris to US Vice President and Christina McAnee as the General Secretary of Unison, welcoming the progress made but stating that there is still more work to be done to ensure that women are represented in positions of power.

    The first debate of the day was on trade unions organising against the unequal impact of Covid-19 on women and our delegation member Liz Cocks spoke during this session.

  • Wednesday afternoon’s panel discussion looked at the disparities in pay working women face and featured an address from Professor Clare Wenham from LSE.

    The evening’s interactive session attended by ASLEF’s delegates was on organising for equal pay, it was hosted by Ella Baker from the school of organising. The main aim of the session was to distinguish between the gender pay gap and unequal pay to facilitate the planning of actions to challenge unequal pay.

  • Thursday 4th March
    The second day of conference was opened by Annette Manselle Greene, the vice chair of the TUC Women’s Committee. Annette spoke on how the last 12 months of the pandemic had led to an increase in violence and sexual harassment against women.

    The first debate of the day covered Trade Unions and their role in ending gender based violence and harassment.

    Elizabeth Surrey gave ASLEF’s intervention during this session.

  • ASLEF Fringe Event
    Debbie Reay chaired our fringe event during Thursday’s lunchtime session. The fringe event looked at how the abuse of women has evolved in the online world. Charlotte Nichols MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities), Zara Roddis (Revenge Porn Helpline) and Aliya Bakheit (Glitch) were the speakers. The speakers looked at how the pandemic has shaped the abuse of women online and discussed ways that the union movement can fight to change the prevailing culture of abuse.

    The WRC have submitted motions to both AAD and Women’s TUC Conference this year regarding revenge porn, calling for social media policies to be updated to include revenge porn and for revenge porn to be legally categorised as a sexual offence and included in the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21

  • Friday 5th March
    The last day of the conference began with a debate on strengthening women’s rights and representation at work. Gail Cartmail the TUC president began the session by covering the low proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers and highlighted the cronyism of the government during the pandemic.

    Marsha de Cordova MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities) highlighted the over representation of women in precarious work and the over use of zero-hours contracts.

    Davena Rankin from Unison was the third speaker during the session and she touched on the need for unions to provide a platform for underrepresented workers to have their voices heard.

    The debate opened up and Jenny Wray made ASLEF’s intervention

ASLEF’s Motions to Conference

Rail to Refuge 

Conference acknowledges with huge sadness the surge in reports of domestic violence brought about by the COVID pandemic. 

The first seven weeks of lockdown saw police receive a domestic abuse complaint call every 30 seconds.  A Womens Aid survey reported that 61% of women living with their abuser during lockdown said the abuse had worsened.  68% felt they had no one to turn to.

Conference applauds the Rail to Refuge scheme introduced by the rail bodies in response to the escalating levels of domestic violence; the scheme allowed victims to access free rail travel to a place of safety through Womens Aid.   

Conference is however extremely disappointed Rail to Refuge was merely a temporary gesture only lasting the length of lockdown with the exception of operators Southeastern and GWR who have adopted the scheme permanently. 

Conference calls on the TUC Women’s Committee to

urgently lobby rail bodies demanding that Rail to Refuge becomes a permanent scheme across the whole mainline rail network with the commitment that this is honoured regardless of changes in franchise or management contract ownership.

further lobby TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to introduce a similar scheme across the London transport network.

Stop online sexual shaming 

The sharing of private or sexual images or videos without a person’s consent is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales. Regularly referred to, as ‘revenge porn’ this is often part of larger patterns of coercive and violent behaviour.  

Conference is shocked at the increase in this type of abuse, as of September 2020 reports to the Revenge Porn Helpline were up by 22% on 2019 with two thirds of them coming from women.

Research from Refuge showed that 1 in 7 women have received threats intimating that sexual images will be shared without their consent.  Women aged 18-34 are particularly vulnerable to this type of abuse.

Conference believes current legislation fails victims; there is no right to anonymity as with other sexual offences neither is there any provision for the threat to release images. 

Conference calls on the TUC Women’s Committee to: –

  1. launch a robust campaign which seeks to legally categorise ‘revenge porn’ as a sexual offence and for its inclusion in the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21.
  2. invite a speaker from the Revenge Porn Helpline to address TUC Women’s Conference 2022 about this growing area of abuse and the devastating effects it can have on women’s lives.  
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